Human rights are rights that we all have, simply because we are human.
In 1948, the United Nations defined 30 articles of human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These rights are based on humanity, freedom, justice and peace.
South Africa has included human rights in its own Bill of Rights, which is part of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. The Constitution is the supreme law, meaning that no law can be passed that goes against it. The articles of our Constitution can only be changed by a two-thirds majority vote in Parliament, which means it is difficult for anyone, even the government, to change these rights or take them away. The Bill of Rights essentially confirms the rights of all people in South Africa to dignity, equality and freedom.
Human Rights Day, 21 March (TODAY!)
Human Rights Day in South Africa is historically linked with the 21st of March 1960, and the events of the Sharpeville Massacre. On that day 69 people died and 180 were wounded when police fired on a crowd that had gathered in peaceful protest against the Pass Laws. This day symbolised the power of ordinary people to rise up together and proclaim their rights. It became an iconic date in South Africa’s history, and is thus the day on which we celebrate Human Rights Day, as it serves as a reminder of our rights and the cost paid by others for our human rights.
On Human Rights Day, South Africans are asked to reflect on their rights, to protect their rights and the rights of all people irrespective of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and whether they are a foreign national or not. It is a time to remember that human rights apply equally, to everyone.
What are your rights?
In terms of theBill of Rights everyone has a right to life, equality and human dignity.
- Everyone has a right to citizenship and security. Everyone is entitled to gather together in groups, befriend whoever they wish, hold whatever beliefs and opinions they wish, and to express themselves freely. We all have the right to demonstrate and protest, and everyone has the right to be free from forced labour orslavery.
- Everyone have a right to privacy and the right to vote. We all have a right to access information and to just and fair legal proceedings. We have rights if we are arrested or accused of something, and we all have access to the courts.
- We all have the right to move freely and to live wherever we choose to live. We also have a right to pursue whatever occupation or profession we wish. We all have the right to purchase property anywhere, and to a basic education.
- Other rights include a right to a healthy environment, housing, health care, food, water and social security.
- The Bill of Rights also specifies the rights of persons belonging to cultural or religious communities and the rights of children. In addition, there are specific laws to safeguard women and protect children.